Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Petrarch Blog-A tradition of tradition

Petrarch’s use of a “letter” to communicate with his fictional heroes is a clever method to both express his admiration for and sincerest questions to his models. My understanding of the theme Ad Fontes is simply its definition: Looking back to the sources. In Petrarch’s letter to Homer he illustrates Ad Fontes brilliantly by congratulating Homer on having so many imitators and that he himself (Petrarch) also hopes to have succeeded in creating enough good literature to inspire his own imitators. His hope also is that those same imitators will surpass him and will continue a tradition of improving imitation.

            In Petrarch’s letters there is this theme of tradition or Ad Fontes is repeated. Its importance was especially impressed upon me when reading the letter to Cicero and seeing Petrarch lament the fact his generation had lost original work by Cicero. This lack of original sources means to Petrarch that his generation and all after him are unable to continue their striving effort at improving upon what has been laid before. This point is further strengthened in Petrarch’s letter concerning the scarcity of copyists. Petrarch was eager to read the great works of Greek and Roman nationality but there were not sufficient means to translate their works and share them. He then underwent the work himself and worked tirelessly at it. He was inspired to learn in his copying of Cicero's work that his hero Cicero also participated in the copyist profession. Seeing Petrarch and Cicero both in their respective era’s giving priority to Ad Fontes is truly remarkable and gives me a sense of responsibility to give more priority to the great works of literature I have available to me today.

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